I’m walking on campus, and it’s late evening. As I walk, I watch a tv episode on my iPod. I have both headphones in, I’m walking with my head down to look at the screen, and nothing about me, as far as I can tell, looks particularly friendly or open. I notice in my peripheral vision two young asian ladies waving me down. I think perhaps they need directions to somewhere on campus, so I pause the tv show, remove the headphones, and ask how I can help them.
“Do you go to school here?”
“Yes,” I answer.
“Would you like to join our bible study group? We meet blah blah blah blah blah….” (fade out listening)
It is a familiar question. I have often been stopped before and asked to join a bible study group. There are signs all over the campus bulletin boards saying things like “Jesus loves you” and “You are not alone” in bright word art colors. But I have never been waved down when I had my earphones in before to be asked that.
I am never comfortable with people approaching me to ask me this. I am not a fan of this kind of missionary work. And it’s never people from any other religion. I do not get Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists, just walking up to me and asking me to join them. Maybe it’s because I look Anglo-Saxon (I am, in fact, a European mutt), but I also get the impression that these people can do this because they are the majority religion. All of the others, they have their communities, but they aren’t in your face about it. The Jewish Center on campus is very active, but they don’t stand on street corners asking people to join them. The Muslim community, as in many parts of the US, is much less visible; here, you see Muslims dressed in their traditional clothes often enough, but you don’t see them practicing their religion right in front of you, and certainly not standing around approaching strangers.
But the Christians? They are everywhere. Signs and posters are everywhere. Teams of two walk around asking people to join their bible study often. They set up tables and advertise free pamphlets on how to find Christ, or they host “debates” and invite some weak arguments from the other side. Sometimes, they sing acapella songs that praise the Lord and hold Christian rock concerts outside on campus.
I don’t mind them practicing on their own, but just please don’t bother me. Don’t assume I am Christian because I am white. And don’t be surprised when I tell you I’m not interested. And don’t keep trying after I’ve made my disinterest clear.
…fade back in to conversation.
I put my hand up to try to pause their explanation of where and when these meetings are. I’m feeling annoyed and unashamed. These girls look so ignorant and naive, and for the first time , I decide to play for shock value.
“I’m sorry, I’m not interested. I’m an atheist,” I say in explanation, and I make to walk away.
One of them looks particularly surprised and amazed. “You mean you have never heard of Christianity?” she asks sincerely.